Spanish warship rescues Somali crew held by pirates

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The Spanish warship ESPS Reina Sofia has stopped a Yemeni dhow being used as a pirate mother ship, capturing the pirates and freeing the four Somali crewmen being held hostage.

Assets from Operation Atalanta, the European Union’s counter-piracy mission in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden, detected the dhow on Saturday. A French Air Force E-3F AWACS aircraft, FS Dixmude and her helicopters, as well as an Australian maritime patrol aircraft contributed to the operation, which resulted in Spanish Marines from the ESPS Reina Sofia boarding the suspected mother ship.

After transferring the 20 men from the dhow to Reina Sofia, four of the men were quickly identified as innocent Somali crewmembers, who are now being cared for by the Spanish crew, the European Union Naval Force (EU Navfor) reports. Two Yemeni crew had reportedly already been let go by the suspect pirates after the dhow was pirated in late March.

As a result of her actions, Reina Sofia took out the threat of 16 pirates and their use of the dhow as a mother ship to attack merchant shipping in the Indian Ocean. The dhow and the Somali crew can now return safely to the homeport in Yemen, the EU Navfor reported.

As neither the crew of the dhow, nor the master of the attacked merchant vessel filed a complaint, the 16 suspected pirates will be released.

According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), as of March 19 there have been 87 attacks against ships around the world this year, resulting in nine hijackings. Of those incidents, Somali pirates were responsible for 36 attacks and seven hijackings. They are currently holding 13 vessels and 197 hostages, 92 of whom were captured this year.

The Bureau records 15 incidences of attempted piracy and ship robbery so far this month. All attempted hijackings in April were unsuccessful, except for an incident on April 6 off Iran. Armed pirates attacked and boarded a general cargo ship, taking hostage the crewmembers and hijacking the vessel. An Iranian warship responded to the alert and proceeded towards the vessel. The warship move closer to the ship resulting in an exchange of fire between the pirates and the navy. The navy managed to board the ship, detain nine pirates and save all 28 crewmembers.